I was sent this interesting article about building self esteem through what we dont say…amd I thought you “rockers” would love to read it as well! Please enjoy:
There is a lot of research out there about body language and how the majority of what we communicate is through our nonverbals. In fact, one study at UCLA found that up to 93% of what we say is not through words. Our tone, our gestures and our facial expressions play a much larger role in what we communicate than the words that come out of our mouth. Try it. Watch TV with the volume off and see if you can piece together what’s happening in the scene. Interesting, huh?
Several years ago, I saw a segment on Oprah where they had parents give different facial reactions to their children when they picked them up from childcare (I tried to look up the episode to share better details but couldn’t find it. If you know more about this episode, please share it with me). What they discovered was that children’s self-esteem correlated to the types of nonverbals their parents gave them when they first saw them. Parents who barely made eye contact with their child, overlooked the child and focused on talking to the other adult in the room, or simply had a blank face had children who reported a lower self-esteem than those whose parent’s face lit up when they saw their child, embraced them in a hug and used body language to show interest in their child. Words did not even have to be spoken.
This demonstration is consistent with similar research done regarding parents’ nonverbal communication with their children. This knowledge is something that haunts me. I don’t want to send the message to my children that they are unimportant. Or even that they are just less important than other things in my life. I certainly don’t want my nonverbal communication to be something that negatively impacts my children’s self-esteem! So, I intentionally try make sure the first and the last facial/body message that my children get from me is that I am happy that they are in my life and that I love them with all my heart.
Some days this is more difficult than others. On days when we’re running ten minutes late to school because of goofing around, or when the baby is crying and requiring a lot of my attention, or when I just flat-out don’t feel good, making my body smile and my eyes light up with excitement and my arms wrap around a little body in a hug seems like moving dead weight. But more important than any of this is that my kids leave for their day with their self-esteem boosted knowing that their mommy loves them not just because those words came out of her mouth. And at the end of the day, they know they are coming home with someone who thinks the world of them and is not picking them up because it’s just the next thing on my to-do list.
Many times I have to really think about it. I have to remind myself to show my excitement. I have to tell my eyes to soften. I have to open up my mouth in a big smile and widen my arms in preparation for an embrace. Not because I have to force myself to love my kids. More because I have to step out of my selfish world of I’m exhausted, I’m not in the mood, or I just want to get out of here. In these moments I have to remember that I have three adorable children who just want reassurance that yes, even today, I am glad I’m their mommy.
This is not about being fake with my kids. I’m not suggesting that I cover up my stress, frustration, or sickness and give the “everything’s rainbows and roses”- June Clever- cheese ball -hello and good bye. Anyone who knows me and my kids knows I’m pretty candid with them about how I’m feeling. But when it’s all said and done. When they have heard how I feel. Can they SEE that despite it all I love them and think they are amazing? What does 93% of me say to my kids on a day-to-day basis? What are you saying to your kids? Obviously, the same rules apply beyond just the Hellos and Good-Byes we give our kids. What other areas are our nonverbal communications just as important?
Tara Wood, M.A. is a parenting coach and educator in Denver, Colorado. She is co-founder and executive director of Xylem Family Resource, a nonprofit supporting and educating parents. She has been married for 14 years and adores her three children ages 7, 5, and 9 months.